“I say [Germany] ought to get a good whipping before it is over. If they would make peace with her now she would prepare up again. Go back in the war stronger than ever…”
In his seventh letter home from Camp Lee, Virginia, dated January 2, 1918, PFC Charles “Dutch” Riggle, a WWI soldier from Wheeling, WV, tells his brother James “Abe” Riggle that he is recovering from a mild case of the measles. He notes that Less [our second letter writer, Wagoner Lester Scott] is now in the hospital with the same ailment. Dutch regrets missing Christmas at home but says they had a splendid good time and a “number one good dinner” at camp. The weather has been “powerful cold” and it’s “snowing like the devil” as he writes. There are 22 prisoners in the guard house who tried to “run off” for home. Dutch again mentions the U.S. Coastal Artillery (founded in 1901 to defend America’s coastline and harbors). He says the army has made him tough. He has no fear of battle. He’d like to get to France soon but doesn’t think he ever actually will because the Germans are “tired of war” and talking peace [probably a reference to the peace talks at Brest-Litovsk between the Germans and the Bolsheviks (Soviet Russia) that were occurring at the time]. He thinks Germany fears American power entering the war and that “she ought to get a good whipping” lest she arms up again and continues the war. In his own way, Charles seems to anticipate the rise of the Third Reich and the Second World War. He thinks the submarine was Germany’s last chance to win. He closes by noting that James is taking care of Lester’s horse.
Elsewhere on the same day, the British Air Ministry was established to oversee the Royal Air Force and deal with the increasing number of German Luftstreitkräfte bombing air raids (featuring Zeppelins, Gotha bombers, and other aircraft) against Great Britain.
Charles “Dutch” Riggle was drafted into the US Army in 1917 and trained at Camp Lee, Virginia, where so many Wheeling draftees and volunteers—including his sister-in-law Minnie Riggle’s brother, Lester Scott—were trained. Dutch Riggle was a Private First Class in the 314th Field Artillery Supply Company, in France. Riggle was a farm boy with little formal education who grew up in the hills of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He spelled many of his words phonetically. His letters have been transcribed exactly as they were written. This is his seventh letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, January 2, 1918.